I’m not a Java developer!

Dear Phil,

I hope this letter finds you well.

I got a new job as a Senior Java Developer 3 months ago. In the past 6-7 years I had been working mainly in Java projects, but my current job is different.

Wherever I worked before I had the opportunity to meet the customer, ask questions while I could remained a coder at the same time. I had the possibility to hear and feel the problem “from the first row”, and find a good and elegant solution with my team afterwards.

Right now I am said I am a Java developer. Questions raised are not really encouraged, only getting things done attitude is appreciated. I work as a soulless robot task by task, day by day.

I think this problem is not specific for my current company, but I see it as a general problem instead. Pigeonholing is a real issue that we should fight against. People are assigned to categories a.k.a. positions that are artificially created for treating everyone all the same in each category.

But why is pigeonholing a problem at all if it is economical and many people think that it is the right way for employees to be treated?

First of all I do not believe that for creative activities like software development pigeonholing would be economical, because it separates people who should work tightly together. Secondly, and this concerns me more, position names like ‘Java developer’, ‘Mobile software engineer’, ‘J2EE developer’ and so on make people believe that they should belong to a certain category, and they start identifying themselves based solely on that technical category, missing the point that they should help others with their development skills instead.

Many developers are passionate about the technology, and that is okay.  But most of them care about the technology only, and are not really interested in the business problem they are to solve. I usually see position descriptions reflecting this attitude: “we rotate people around the teams, so you won’t stuck in one product for years.” And indeed, developers usually do not like to be involved in the same project for years.

And from this point of view they are absolutely right. They are not involved in the background of the business decisions, they can not see the big picture, so why should they care? They are not thinking about being more than just a coder.

But what can we do about this? Should we care at all?

I believe that having a goal or a vision that is related somehow to the world is fundamental to our long-term motivation. If I can imagine a vision, and it makes sense to me, I can believe in it. If I believe in it, I want to care for it. I will share my own ideas and initiatives with my fellow workers. They get inspired, and will also share their own thoughts with me. We will work together driven by enthusiasm.

And that is all I want. A vision I believe in, and people, like me, who also want that vision, and are willing to act for it.

Since the vision I work for and the people who I work with are so important to me, I am the only one who is responsible for finding such opportunities. If I do not act, my work will not make me happy in the long run.

Most companies do not own any vision. Can I dream one for my current work? Can I share it with my colleagues and my boss? Will it be heard?

Or should I look for something that is outside my current job? And is there a vision that originates from me?

I am sure you understand me by now, why I do not consider myself a simple Java developer. These two words cannot express that in reality I am much more. I am a human who cares. 

What do you think? How important is your pet technology to you? And what or who do you consider yourself in your profession and in the world?

Sorry for having so many questions and doubts.

Take care,

4 thoughts on “I’m not a Java developer!

  1. You are absolutely correct. I always pretend my self that I’m a java developer and I don’t want to even look into CSS issues. Like the way you described, My manager changed my mindset and now I’m a technician 🙂


    • Suresh: yes, seeing ourselves on a wider spectrum will be beneficial to everyone at the end of the day.

      One step is to broaden our technical domain. And one more (huge) step is to take responsibility not only for our professionality, but for our own human side: looking for opportunities where we can feel happy and satisfied in the long term.


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